Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sometimes The Dollar Store Is Too Expensive

I am a person who is always looking for the best deal. Many times that requires comparing products, price shopping, and adding coupons into the mix. Sometimes I can only employ one or two of these factors and sometimes it requires all three. However, sometimes it just takes a little luck and a smidge of effort in order to get the best price possible… FREE!

As of late, I have been picking up a few items here and there at job fairs which have demonstrated varying degrees of quality and usefulness. This is a great way to collect a mismatched set of plastic cups, travel mugs, and random memory foam stress relievers (best used when you hear the words “we’re not looking for someone with your background at the moment”). All in all, nothing is really worth bragging about (both the item and where you got it).

My wife has also been picking up a few free items lately. She came home yesterday with a grab bag of literature from an all day conference she attended at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia (the conference was also free which is a find in itself). I was going to attend the event with her but Mr. Sandman was being a particularly persistent bastard yesterday. Anyway, while the information may not be helpful to many it was useful to her and, therefore, a great free find.

My latest two acquisitions are of a completely different free breed. High quality useful items are something I am always looking for and getting them for free is just a bonus. The two items pictured will be used and used a lot… one right away and one in the future.

I came across the free Siddur while browsing through my Facebook feed. A few friends had shared the link for the giveaway and when I saw it I had to claim my copy. This was not a contest; it was on a first come first serve basis. Simply click on the link and fill in the shipping information.

I knew the company, Koren Publishers Jerusalem, and have other Siddurim from them so I had no qualms about sharing my information. A few weeks later and the book was waiting for me at the front desk. Now I just have the simple task of learning Hebrew and this will be a heavily used addition to our library. Like I said earlier, this is the item that will be used in the future.

An item doesn’t have to be fancy to be a great freebie. Sometimes it’s the simple items that prove to be the most useful. A perfect example of this is the map I received from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The arrival of this envelop was met with some trepidation because usually when you have an envelope in your mailbox with that return address and your registration isn’t due it means bad news. So, when this parcel arrived, I was ready to break out the check book and survey the bank account. I find it both impressive and disturbing the pucker power an envelope can have when the return address it related to a government agency. It was a pleasant surprise to find something useful enclosed in the PennDOT stationary.

With all of the traveling that we have been doing lately and all the trips that are planned over the next several months, this map is something that will be used over and over again. For me, old school maps are a much better way to find those out of the way places that the Maps App on my iPhone can’t pronounce. We often forget that technology has its limits and sometimes the best way to find something or someplace that you didn’t know you were looking for is by flipping through the pages of a book or unfolding a map on the table.

It just goes to show that free stuff (and clichés) can be found all over the place. All you need to do is pay attention and be willing to commit about 30 seconds in filling out your mailing information. Note that some of you may have to take off the tin foil from your noggin to accomplish this. Some of the items are going to be more useful than others but, who cares, it's free. If you really don’t want it I’m sure someone you know will or you can donate to charity (which would, in turn, make it free for them).  

What are some of the items you have gotten for free? What are some of the items you wish you didn’t get for free?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Living Like Peter Pan (Tights Optional)

In a blog I posted on Tuesday about a networking event that I attended I posted the questions that were discussed during the meeting. One of the questions has continued to linger in my mind for the past week and is now prompting me to record my thoughts on the subject. “What did you want to be when you grew up? In what ways does your current job resemble parts of that early ambition?

My response to this question during the event was typical of many men my age… growing up I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Really you can insert any kind of professional athlete and you would describe about 95% of the male population. Once many of us realize that that would take some level of athletic ability the dream slowly fades and reality takes hold of our lives.

Later in life, in my early twenties, I wanted to write for a living. My primary genre was poetry but I knew that I would never be able to make a living creating poems. Having published in numerous literary journals and even having my own book put out by a publisher made that reality very clear… I would have to find another genre if I was going to support myself.

I still write both personally (obvious if you are reading this) and professionally and I am never happier when I am able to write something that has particular meaning for me or that has a demonstrated impact on others. This blog has been that source of creative happiness that has long been absent. I have read comments and gotten feedback that has made me continue to push to get out a blog every day and keep pushing to improve.

This leads me back to the question posed above. For me, what it really comes down to is that when we are kids we want to continue to do what we enjoy… this is what we want to do when we grow up. So later in life we must ask the child imprisoned within each of us whether we enjoy the work that we are doing (whether as a profession or a hobby). Does the daily joy and hope from childhood remain in our consciousness?

For me, I am enjoying writing again. This is what I want to continue to do when I grow up and something that I will continue to work at and hopefully will be able to apply in my next position. Creativity is my passion and writing is my method of expression and so long as I continue to write I will forever be an incarnation of J. M. Barrie’s imagination.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Working On The Bucket List

It’s always a great feeling to cross something off your bucket list and yesterday I was able to do just that when my wife and I walked on the Appalachian Trail. We didn’t walk very far but we left our boot prints on the trail and that is enough to cross it off the list. It is because of that simple list that we drove about three and a half hours each way just to hike for about two and a half hours.

Our trip this week did not begin on a good note as we sat in traffic on the Schuykill Expressway for about an hour waiting for a multi car accident to be cleaned up (Thank you KYW for the heads up after we put our car in park on the expressway). Once we passed the pile of morons (seeing the aftermath I can say for certain that stupidity was involved), the highway cleared up and we were finally making progress. The rest of the drive happened without incident and we arrived at Gardners, Pennsylvania in the Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Once we arrived we immediately calculated in what direction and how far we would have to hike by chatting with some section hikers who had just emerged from the woods. We found out that about a three miles hike south would do the trick and get us to the halfway point. Now that we had our bearings it was time to start walking.

We passed the park’s namesake…

...with flowers blooming beside it...

…and the local hostel (which is quite full this time of year)…

…and made our way into the woods (no musical interlude needed thank you).

The first part of our hike was uphill and was not assisted in any way by the hot and muggy day… the kind of heat and humidity that makes us dread the oncoming of summer. Shortly after beginning it was made very clear that an overweight, out of shape, smoker on the trail does not move very fast. Much of this was explained by Bill Bryson in his excellent book “A Walk In The Woods” but his account isn’t really fully appreciated until you experience your fatness firsthand.

While the hike was hard for those of us in, to put it nicely, non hiking shape, there were times of even terrain that allowed us to find our breath and enjoy the path weaving in-between the trees.

There were also a few spots along the way that opened up and provided a small secluded wilderness oasis.

Throughout our excursion, we walked on a wide variety of surfaces from rocks…

…and plain old dirt…

…to little streams…

…and bridges.

We walked on logs (used as stairs)…

…through logs…

…and beside many fallen trees.

After about 75 minutes on the trail we had decided to push ahead for another 15 minutes to see if we could make it to the half waypoint. Shortly after resuming, the trail became a little too much for the fat man and his wife as the overgrowth covered the forest floor hiding the path and the footing that was tenuous at best. With a questionable trail and an evident imbalance between desire and ability we decided to turn around and try another day when we were both in better shape.

The hike back seemed much easier and enjoyable than our blind trek into the thick woods a short time ago and before we knew it we were passing signs in the trail that we clearly remembered.

As the cabins appeared in the distance and the rain began to drum the mountain canopy we could see trail open up and the asphalt get darker and darker as the AT thrust us back into civilization. A short walk down the road we were warmly greeted at the Appalachian Trail Museum which was right next to the parking lot where we left our car for the afternoon.

After a quick tour of the one room tribute to the trail, a few quick conversations with some weathered thru hikers, and we were heading back to the car leaving our last few footprints on the trail before we went home.

Our hike ended just in time as the off and on rain of the early afternoon was gearing up for an early summer onslaught.

But even with a nearly four hour drive home, I had crossed an item off my bucket list and that makes for a great day no matter how long the commute might have been.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Induction to Induction: My First Year As A Rotarian

(L-R) President Elect Sean Teaford, Treasurer Patricia Mosteller, Incoming President Dr. Sherman Leis, Past District Governor Joel Chesney, Outgoing President Richard Trivane, Secretary Thomas Wiener, and Program Chair Patrick Walsh.  

My Rotary experience during this past year has been quite different than most first year Rotarians.  By joining a smaller club, I knew that I would be able to have an immediate impact and I would have the opportunity to quickly establish my presence in the club. This isn’t always the case as this is reliant upon an open minded membership of trusting and supportive men and women. Fortunately, I am a member of such a club.

Since I joined Rotary last August, I have had a wide range of experiences and I have held numerous offices. I quickly established myself as a board member and almost immediately took upon the role of Sergeant-At-Arms. Earlier this year I accepted the honor of becoming the Vice President of the club and yesterday I was, along with all the other incoming officers, officially inducted as the President Elect of the Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd – Narberth by Past District Governor Joel Chesney. It was also a great day to have my wife attend her first Rotary meeting with me!

I have done my best to represent the club and Rotary as a whole in a positive light in the community and I look forward to doing so in this new role. I look forward to both supporting our incoming President, Dr. Sherman Leis, as well as bringing ideas and strategies to the table that will both enhance and expand upon the goals established under his leadership. However, these initiatives are dependent upon a strong and engaged membership that is motivated by the ability of Rotary to change lives. Thankfully, we have such a membership.

I have made it known both in person and on this blog what my goals are going into this new Rotary year and I am looking forward to seeing all of them to fruition. These and similar goals should be adopted by all service centric clubs as we are all essential to the community especially in this time where technology has widened our world it is important for us to bring people back to center. We must take pride in the community and do all that we can to ensure the success of our neighborhoods, cities, towns, etc.

Our club has a long history in the community having received our charter in 1926 by sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Philadelphia. While the community around us has changed, our presence and commitment has never wavered and we will continue in our duty to remain a grounding constant among our neighbors. As part of the worlds' oldest and largest community service club of its kind, we will continue to serve as a doorway to greater world where service is placed above self and the morals set forth by Rotary permeate our daily lives.  

I take great pride in many things not the least of which is my Rotary club and I am humbled by the responsibility entrusted in me by my fellow Rotarians. While our club is small, preventing us from changing the ebb and flow of the tide, we can still create waves by making ripples in the water. This is how we make our presence known in the community and impact the world around us. One on one, person to person, we can change lives for the better. What greater meaning can there be in life?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mason Vacation?

During the months of July and August we all, like many of the basic cable TV networks, take a break from our regularly scheduled programming. As the heat of summer increases we take some time off to spend time with family. But what about our fraternal family?

Even though we are away from the lodge for a couple of months doesn’t mean we should distance ourselves from our brothers. In fact, this should be a time when we reach out to those whom we have not seen for some time and those that may be suspended. We should take advantage of this time of year to bring the lodge together and strengthen the brotherhood.

As many of you know, brothers new to the fraternity have an opportunity in their first year to demonstrate their commitment, leadership, and passion for Freemasonry. One of the requirements outlined is for them to assist the Lodge Secretary in reaching out to members who are in danger of being suspended. Having new members conduct this outreach with their Masonic motivation still fresh in their mind is a great way to motivate absent members who may have lost sight of why they made the transition from man to Mason. Of course, this outreach should also be expanded to those who have already been suspended.

An additional, and optional, requirement is for new Masons to reach out to brothers who have, for whatever reason, not been to lodge in the last six months. Maybe a brother has lost his Masonic light. Maybe they just needed to make the time and needed a little extra push to attend. In my opinion, and I am sure this is shared by many of my fellow brothers, that these are all brothers in need and within the length of a cable tow making it our duty to help them in any way we can.

Also keep in mind that summer is a time when people move. Keep an ear open to any brothers that may be new to the area, reach out to them, and introduce them to other brothers in the area. Let them know that fraternity has no boarders.

Another focus for all Brothers during this break in the Masonic year should be education. We must all do what we can to increase our Masonic knowledge. Whether you are looking to go through the chairs, earn additional degrees, or simply want to increase your knowledge this is an optimal time to sharpen your mind and prepare for when meetings resume.

Lastly, I encourage you spend time with other brothers outside of the lodge during these next two months. Get a group together for a happy hour. Create a fellowship event (maybe include some of the aforementioned suggestions). Bring your families together for dinner or some kind of family friendly activity such as a baseball game, movie, museum, or a day trip to the beach.

Remember, fraternity is not limited by the walls of a lodge.    

What are your plans for a Masonic summer?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Networking Nosh

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of networking events in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania organized by The Power Lunch Project. As many of you already know I enjoy meeting new people and I am always looking for different ways to get out and talk to people in addition to my regular meetings and events. The Power Lunch Project is a great addition to my networking repertoire and I look forward to attending additional gatherings in the future.

I have tried other, more traditional, networking groups such as BNI and they have all left me feeling a little let down by the dry robotic nature of the meetings. Some people enjoy BNI and benefit greatly from their group but it just wasn’t for me. Of course, I may have also caught them on a bad week. I like getting to know people beyond the simple introduction of who I am and what I do. Maybe it’s the writer in me but I am always looking for a little more meat on the bone.

It is for that reason that I really enjoy my Monday morning meetings at the Freedom Deli in King of Prussia. Each week there is a different set of questions for us to discuss which allows everyone to get to know one another a little better. This week, for example, the questions were the following:

·         If you could change ONE THING about your work day, what would it be?
·         What did you want to be when you grew up? In what ways does your current job resemble parts of that early ambition?

In both instances, you could hear the similarities that many of us had but also the variety of aspirations and character types that filled the room. It didn’t matter what industry someone is in, we all talked openly about both the challenges of our day as well as our childhood aspirations and whether or not those dreams are part of our current (or future) reality.

Another important aspect that will keep me coming back is the fact that it is not just a referral game. It is much more of a holistic approach to networking. Of course, connections are welcomed and appreciated but ideas are also shared and discussed. Maybe it’s a different approach, maybe a different target market, maybe a way to reshape, expand, or promote a program. The overall dialogue that occurs during these meetings is fantastic due to the fact that everyone was, as I like to say, personally professional with the honesty and openness that was displayed in both responses and feedback.

How would you answer the questions above? What questions come to mind that you would have a group of professionals discuss? Would this type of networking event be a good fit for you?

For those of you that are looking for something a little different in your networking experience, I encourage you to join us at the Freedom Deli in King of Prussia on Monday from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm. In the meantime, browse the website, join the group on Meetup, and connect with the organizers, Sara Rosenberg and Yisroel (Izzy) H. Levovitz, of this weekly experience on LinkedIn. And, for those of you in other parts of the country or world, find a similar event in your area or start your own group where this kind of atmosphere and community can be achieved.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Job Insecurity – The Marco Polo Paradigm

Ever since my wife and I moved back to the Philadelphia area, my employment situation has been in flux. Since the beginning of 2012, I have had a couple of sales positions as well as my current position working the desk of my apartment building during the night. It has been difficult to land a job that was a good fit for me where I know I was adding value to the company and I enjoyed going to every day.

As many of us experienced during our childhood, I feel like I am treading water in a deep pool yelling “Marco” with the anticipation of hearing the response “Polo”. To this point it has been a one way discussion (no, I have not started answering myself). But, just as you did when playing the game, you keep calling until you get your bearings and find the right direction you need to travel. I know there are fish in the water I just have to catch one.

Throughout that time I have longed to return to my chosen profession, the industry I left to move back down here from Manhattan, Public Relations. Over the years, I found this profession to be rewarding both creatively and socially with writing and pitching being my two strongest areas. I thrived on finding ways to get the client’s voice heard and I enjoyed making the connections and getting to know reporters in order to make mutually beneficial introductions.

Of course, this is something that I have continued to do on a personal level both through Rotary, Masons, and other organizations. I have given both my time and creativity to help others and I continue to write for the sake of my own creative sanity. However, it would be nice to find a place, to find a company, where I could bring those to areas of enjoyment together again.

As many of you may have seen, I have posted an open position on my LinkedIn profile to this effect leaving the name of the company blank with the start day coinciding with the current month. PR is applicable to so many businesses and industries that I can’t limit my search… with that said, the recent trips that my wife and I have taken have opened my eyes to one of the logistical roadblocks that I have, until now, placed before me.

Prior to our explorations, I have limited my search to Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Basically, I have been an idiot. Now I am expanding my search to include the entire southeastern part of the Commonwealth (Pennsylvania is a commonwealth not a state) as well as the counties immediately north of that area. With writing permeating the bulk of my educational and work experience, and where my natural talent lies, I am also opening up to a wide variety of opportunities where writing could possibly be the centerpiece of my efforts. I can always find a way to add PR and networking to the mix in some way, shape, or form (travel writing is an idea that comes to mind).  

For those of you unfamiliar with my background, please consider the following bullet points:

·        Seasoned PR professional with placements in both national and trade publications including (but not limited to) The New York Times, ComputerWorld,, Baseline (byline author), ReadWriteWeb, and
·        Experienced social media strategist accomplished in the creation and implementation of media campaigns simultaneously across multiple platforms.
·        Strong writing and editing skill set applicable to numerous industries with experience ranging from internal communications, speech writing, and press releases to bylines, reviews, and social media posts.
·        Diverse writing portfolio which includes publication in both print and online mediums ranging from poetry and short stories to blogs, editorials, and research pieces of a personal and business nature respectively.
·        Research experience encompassing a wide range of topics including (but not limited to) genealogy, Holocaust studies, public relations, and business and social media trends and statistics.
·        Accomplished public speaker, emcee, and event planner. 
·        Proficient in Microsoft Office, SalesGenie, ProfNet, BusinessWire, Cision, Factiva, and numerous social media platforms (and the business applications thereof) including Blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
·        Active in local community and nonprofit organizations with a wide variety of leadership duties and charitable causes.

So, I will finish this brief post / employment update by requesting your assistance. I am open to new opportunities, new challenges, and a new chapter in my career. If you happen to know of anyone looking for someone who possesses the above set of skill please reach out to me by sending me an email at Of course, I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new people so if you happen to be in the area or know someone in the area I would like to get together over a cup of coffee so that I can properly introduce myself. I look forward to hearing from some of you in the very near future.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Small Mountain Town Not Named South Park

As was alluded to in my last post, my wife and I returned to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania this past week. Finally utilizing a six year old gift card from my brother and sister-in-law we stayed the night and had a mini vacation in the Pocono Mountains. The extended stay allowed us to take our time and explore the town in greater depth and visit some of the sights that the constraints of a day trip prevented us from doing the last time we were up there.

Shortly after getting off from my overnight shift on Thursday morning we began our drive to the fresh air and spaciousness of the mountains. The increased familiarity with the area and the route this time allowed us to immediately relax as soon as the last vestiges of the morning rush hour cleared and the highway opened up. It’s amazing what a difference an hour and a half drive can make for ones nerves and sanity.

We arrived in the late morning, parked the car at the inn, and walked up Broadway to find a suitable place for an early lunch. A few blocks up the street we settled on a small restaurant called Crave. I had a vague familiarity as we had previously passed it during our last day trip and I had since then discovered that the Rotary Club of Jim Thorpe meets there every Tuesday for lunch (that may be a good visit in the future). As soon as we finished our meals, eggs for me and salmon for my wife, we ventured out with the game plan we strategized while waiting for our food to arrive.

Our first stop was to The Old Jail Museum just up the street. Many of you may be familiar with the Molly Maguires and this is where much of it happened as is outlined in the marker outside the prison.

Inside the old building you realize how small the space really is and how cramped it must have been with over 400 spectators surrounding the gallows to watch the hangings.

With two men in each cell space was at a premium. And, in one cell, the handprint of Alexander Campbell can still be seen… staining the wall as a proclamation of his innocence (pictures are not permitted in his cell). And up until the 1990’s, inmates throughout the decades lived with that handprint.

As a change of pace, The Mauch Chunk Museum (this was the original name of the town) was our next stop as we walked back down the street toward the inn. Small town museums are of particular interest to me as you can get a much bigger picture and a greater appreciation of the place you are visiting. Many of these kinds of museums are very casual as tourists tend to overlook these fascinations. One of the surprising finds at the museum was in the ballroom on the second floor where the following stained glass can be found.

By this time it was mid afternoon and time to check in. We headed back to the car, grabbed our stuff, and made our way to the front desk. I can’t say enough about The Inn at Jim Thorpe. It is a beautiful old building with a great staff that goes out of their way to make you feel welcomed. Once we got to our room it was time to take a few minutes to relax, let our minds settle, and decide on our plan of action for the second half of our day.

On our way to a happy hour dinner at Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse we stopped by the Civil War Memorial situated between the Carbon County Court House and the restaurant. It is quit the impressive monument when standing at its base.

After a hot and hearty meal and some cold Yeungling, it was time to get back on our feet and head for higher ground.

Overlooking the town are the Asa and Harry Packer mansions. As a side note, Asa Packer once served as Worshipful Master of the Carbon Lodge in Jim Thorpe.  

Like many Victorian mansions of the time, the grandiose beauty of these building is something that needs to be seen.
Harry Packer Mansion

Asa Packer Mansion
No detail is missed as every aspect of these estates exudes wealth and power fitting for a magnate and his son.

Surrounding the Asa Packer Mansion is a multi tiered garden that offers a quite picnic like area with large shady trees and a few old water pumps.

Massive stone walls hold back the earth and divide the mountainside into different layers of seclusion.

Carrying you between the worlds are paths broken up by spots of color the most vibrant being clusters of yellow that also line the front of the mansion.

With all that has been manipulated and manicured throughout the property it is easy for one to forget to turn around and take in the view of the town from above. This view was the reason why the mansions were built on that particular piece of land. This is the vantage point of someone who wished to look over the town he helped build and revel in its prosperity.

Having climbed between the different levels, explored the various paths, and marveled at the artful architecture we decided to head back to the inn and enjoy a beverage on the New Orleans style balcony overlooking Broadway. I came to realize on this pause in our evening that we don’t sit down enough and enjoy the world that surrounds us. It was also during this time of rocking chair reflection that reinforced our Shabbat decision to explore the creation that is so easily within our reach but so frequently overlooked.

As the shops closed their doors and dusk quickly approaching we were off again for our last walk of the evening. With the last rays of light reflecting on the Lehigh River, we walked up and down the bank listening to the rush and ripple of the water.

Watching the mountains slowly disappear in the background we began our walk back to Broadway to take in the amber glow of the old street lights.

Just before walking back into the lobby of the inn, we heard music bouncing off our backs. With a curious ear, we turned around and watched as a troubadour played to a crowd that ebbed and flowed like the waters we had just left behind.

By this time we were both tired, ready for bed, and excited for the day to come. But, before heading up, I had to catch this stunning view of our one night abode.

The next day was much of the same as the first. After breakfast at the Broadway Grille and Pub (included with our room), we walked around town, visiting many of the sites we had seen the previous day but, this time, focusing on the experience itself rather than the recording of the experience on film. Later in the morning we headed off to the Dimmick Memorial Library to learn a little more about the town.

This is a great compliment to the local museum no matter where you are as town librarians are frequently a wealth of knowledge when it comes to local history. After a few interesting discussions and some sporadic research, we headed over to the place where our visit began and where our visit would now end, Crave.

With our bags back in the car, our lungs filled with mountain air, and our stomachs full we got back on the road and took the long way home.

Heading south on one of my favorite roads, Route 209, we stopped by Pottsville and captured a quick image of the Yuengling Brewery (we will visit the brewery again in the future to take the tour). Hopping on Route 61 we quickly made our way to I-78 where one of the signs along the highway caught our attention and brought us to our last quick stop before heading home.

Clover Hill Vineyard and Winery was our last stop. We caught them about 15 minutes before closing but it was enough time for a quick tasting and a few pictures. This final destination was an appropriate close to the trip for two reasons as they make some of our favorite wines and also because when heading back home from such an amazing getaway we needed a drink to ease the transition back to sobering reality.